this year due to the coronavirus-enforced break in play. Robert Lewandowski should have had the chance to break Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s stranglehold on the trophy. Here’s why.
“If you look at what he’s achieved, you have to consider it,” said Flick when asked about his forward’s case for football’s most prestigious individual prize following Bayern’s DFB Cup final win over Leverkusen. “Why shouldn’t it be someone from the Bundesliga? He fulfills all the requirements.”
Those criteria are laid down by France Football magazine, who dreamt up the prize in the mid-1950s. Sadly, this will be the first time since the annual award began that no player will collect the prize for which individual achievement goes hand-in-hand with club success: after Lewandowski’s 2019/20, you would have been hard pushed to find a better candidate. Given he’s the Bundesliga’s all-time leading foreign-born goalscorer, and has been finding the net with incredible regularity since arriving in Germany in 2010 – once every 109 Bundesliga minutes over the last decade – you could be forgiven for thinking you had already witnessed peak Lewandowski.
But Bayern’s prolific Pole has just enjoyed his best-ever Bundesliga season – plundering a record 34 goals to win his fifth Torjägerkanone – fuelling his club’s canter to an eighth successive league title, and he netted twice to help them lift the DFB Cup and complete a domestic double.
His six goals in that competition made him the leading scorer, and he has 11 in the UEFA Champions League, also a competition best. That means he has scored 51 goals in just 43 competitive games this season, a breathtaking feat no-one else in Europe’s top five leagues can boast.
Bayern have one foot in August’s ‘Final 8’ thanks to their 3-0 Last 16 first-leg win at Chelsea, and if they win the Champions League to complete their second-ever treble – and should Lewandowski fire the goals to get them there – the volume of the voices backing his Ballon d’Or claims would have been impossible to drown out.
It has been 24 years since the Bundesliga could boast a Ballon d’Or winner with Matthias Sammer coming top of the poll of respected football journalists from around the world while a Borussia Dortmund player in 1996.
Former Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn came third in 2001 and 2002, Franck Ribery was third after the 2012/13 treble, while Lewandowski’s teammate, Manuel Neuer, also popped up on the last step of the podium in 2014 after backstopping Germany’s FIFA World Cup win in Brazil.
Had he claimed the prize, Lewandowski would have joined an exclusive club of just three Bayern players to have been named Ballon d’Or.
Another free-scoring striker, Gerd Müller, was the Bavarian juggernaut’s first laureate in 1970, and he was followed by teammate Franz Beckenbauer, who won it twice in four years (1972, 1976). Current Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is one of the select group who have won back-to-back Ballons d’Or, topping the poll in 1980 and 1981.
Lewandowski’s best finish to date was his fourth place in 2015 when he came in behind Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. The first two have won all but one of the Ballons d’Or since 2008, but have not enjoyed such stellar seasons as Lewandowski.
“What I try to do is to always show the best of myself, win trophies and score more goals. But that’s something that comes with collective trophies. That’s the most important thing. I don’t even think about the Ballon d’Or, even if, in my life, I believe that anything is possible,” Lewandowski told France Football before suggesting – with words that will delight Bayern fans and bring fear to his future opposition to the title – that he could make an even stronger claim in the future.
“I’m convinced that the best period of my career is just around the corner. I know that this won’t be my last contract. I want to play longer and stay in shape. I’ve got plenty of time to think about what comes next, but I feel really good.
“I’ll be 32 in August, but that doesn’t mean I feel 32! For me, age has no importance in terms of everything that I do, of my involvement in football and my life away from it. I don’t just want to stay at the top of my game for the next two or three seasons, I’m looking more long-term than that.”
There may be no ballon d’Or in 2020, but few would bet against Lewy making a similar claim in 2021.